Severe storm preparations and what you should know

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - When the spring season moves into the Black Hills, not only does it bring the occasional spring winter storm, but it also brings in thunderstorms. As we warm up later in the spring and summer, the atmosphere will have more energy and allow some thunderstorms to become strong and eventually will be labeled severe by the National Weather Service. These thunderstorms bring threats of lightning, large hail, flooding, damaging winds and even tornadoes.

That is why it is important to prepare for these threats, and the National Weather Service is launching a campaign all this week called the Severe Weather Preparedness Week observed April 22 to April 26.

The National Weather Service will issue watches and warnings for threats that these storms could bring, and it is important to know the difference between a watch and a warning.

When alerts such as a Tornado Watch are issued, it doesn’t mean that a tornado is happening, but rather the ingredients of a thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado could be possible. The same rule applies with a Severe Thunderstorm Watch. When a watch is issued, is important to be prepared and have a plan ready to execute if a warning is issued.

If a Tornado Warning is issued, that means a tornado has been indicated by radar, spotted by local officials or trained storm spotters. Action must be taken immediately and you need to find shelter.

If a Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been issued, that means a thunderstorm has wind gusts of at least 58 mph, hail that is at least one inch in diameter or both.

When these watches or warnings are issued, it is important to be notified of them before the threat arrives. You can receive the warnings in multiple ways:


  1. Download our weather app in the app store for your mobile device. It can alert you with the watches or warnings as well as the latest forecast.

  2. Watching us on television. If a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, the bottom of our screen will show the alert and the areas affected in a banner. If a Tornado Warning is issued, we will break coverage to show where the tornado warning is and who will be affected. We will stay on as long as lives are in danger during the warning.

  3. Have a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. The National Weather Service operates a network of radio stations all across the Black Hills and when a watch or warning has been issued, the receivers are activated. Every home should have a NOAA weather radio.

  4. Tornado sirens will be activated by local law enforcement. This is the last resort and should not be depended on for alerts about a Tornado Warning. If you hear a tornado siren, take shelter immediately!


Before these threats are in the Black Hills, it is important to have an emergency preparedness kit in the event that you are forced to take shelter. Your emergency preparedness kit will differ based on if you are at home, work or in a public location. Talk with your employers about the emergency preparedness kit for your workspace. For your home emergency preparedness kit, it should contain, but should not be limited to, the following:

  • At least one gallon of water per person, per day, with at least 3 days of stock

  • Non-perishable food that is easy to prepare, with at least 3 days of stock

  • Flashlight

  • NOAA weather radio

  • Extra batteries

  • First aid kit

  • Medications if needed

  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items

  • Copies of personal documents in a water-proof container with documents such as lease to home, medical information, passports, birth certificates, and insurance policies

  • Cell phone with chargers

  • Emergency contact information

  • Extra cash

  • Blankets and extra clothes if needed

It is suggested that you have your emergency preparedness kit completed before the end of the week so that way you will be ready later on this spring and summer. The National Weather Service will conduct a statewide tornado drill in the state of South Dakota on Wednesday, April 24 between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., so tornado sirens will be activated, weather radios will alert all radio frequencies, and all local television will have the Emergency Alert System running across the screen. Don’t be alarmed, but it would be a perfect opportunity to practice what to do in the event of a tornado.